A lopsided 30-14 victory over the Luke Falk led New York Jets was actually a lot less close than the score may suggest. The Jets flew into New England with their third string quarterback, and expectedly crash landed. The New England Patriots had much to be encouraged by in the victory, as well as many blemishes that could use improving as the season goes on.
Three Up –
Philip Dorsett: Entering week three Dorsett had caught the previous 23 targets thrown his way. Every single one of them. 23/23. Dorsett would see that streak end at 26 on a play that was challenged and upheld after review, despite there appearing to be a camera angle that showed a clear angle where he controlled the ball.
Despite the streak ending Dorsett still had a strong showing bringing in six catches for 53 yards and one touchdown. This brings his season long stat line to 13 receptions for 187 yards and three touchdowns through three games.
Injuries to Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon aren’t considered to threaten their status for the upcoming game against the division rival Buffalo Bills, however with Antonio Brown being released and the options ahead of him being banged up a strong start for Dorsett is a welcomed addition to the Patriots receiving group.
Jake Bailey: One of the quieter stories of the offseason for the New England Patriots was the cutting of former punter Ryan Allen. Allen had a legitimate case to be made for Super Bowl LIII MVP, and in true Patriots fashion was cut the following offseason. Enter Bailey.
Bailey earned AFC special teams player of the week honors for his performance week 3 against the New York Jets in which he punted seven times. Five of those kicks were downed inside the Jets 20 yard line including an amazing play made by perennial all pro special teamer Matthew Slater in which he batted the football backwards, finally coming to rest at the one yard line.
Bailey was selected by the Patriots in the fifth round of this year’s NFL draft and is the first right footed punter ever to play under Bill Belichick. So far so good for the rookie who had big shoes to fill entering the 2019 season. Read more about Bailey here in an article detailing the offseason battle at the punter position.
Patriots Defense: The last time that a football team scored a point in the first half against the New England Patriots was in the AFC Divisional round against the Los Angeles Chargers. The last time that a football team scored a touchdown against this Patriots defense was in the AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The start of the season for this Patriots defense has been nothing short of historic. Through three games opponents have managed 597 yards of total offense, and three points. This defense has also racked up 13 sacks and forced seven turnovers.
The Jets, Dolphins, and Steelers hardly present the biggest hurdle the defensive unit of the Patriots will face all season, but the historic start for this unit bodes well as the season carries on and the defense continues to gel.
Three Down –
Jarrett Stidham: Stidham was selected by the Patriots in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL draft after a promising collegiate career at Auburn. During his time at organized team activities and throughout the pre-season Stidham flashed. So much so that the Patriots felt comfortable carrying only two quarterbacks into the regular season.
The Patriots cut veteran backup Brian Hoyer allowing him to hit the free agent market where he was promptly scooped up by the Indianapolis Colts. They may be regretting that decision. Stidham saw his first regular season action against the New York Jets on Sunday and it was less than an ideal debut.Stidham came into the game in relief of Brady playing one series completing two of three passes for 14 yards, and throwing a pick 6 to Jets safety Jamal Adams.
The interception ended Sitdham’s day and saw Brady return to action. The shaky first performance also saw the Patriots make a personnel move at the position adding Cody Kessler to the team. The combination of his performance and the addition of Kessler has the arrow pointing down for Stidham. He does however have plenty of time to turn that around.
Sony Michel: In a game that was lacking fellow running back James White and a positive gamescript, the workload for Sony Michel should have been much improved. That wasn’t the case.
Sony Michel is ranked 48th out of 48 running backs in Pro Football Focus’ elusiveness rating and has forced just one missed tackle on 45 rushing attempts. On Sunday Michel saw 9 carries for 11 yards and one touchdown.Finding the end zone hasn’t been an issue for Michel this season, however Brandon Bolden and and Rex Burkhead both saw more snaps than Michel.
Perhaps Belichick is attempting to limit Michel’s workload in order to reduce injury risk and keep him fresh for bigger games. Perhaps there’s something else going on with Michel that isn’t public knowledge. While there’s almost surely better days ahead for Michel, his performance against the Jets, or lack there of, is a concern rest of season.
Special Teams: Jake Bailey’s success has already been discussed. That is where the praise stops for the special teams unit however. On a day that saw another Patriots victory by another more than comfortable 16 point margin, the return and kicking teams had some blemishes.
Stephen Gostkowski was coming off of a rocky performance against the Miami Dolphins that saw him miss a field goal and two extra points. The struggles continued for Gostkowski as he missed another extra point which can only beg the question how long is his leash, and how long before Bill Belichick loses his patience with the long tenured kicker?
The New York Jets also scored a touchdown on a muffed punt by the rookie free agent Gunner Olszewski. These are the kind of mistakes that have torpedoed previous careers and cost the Patriots in bigger games. Olszewski showed enough in training camp and the pre-season to warrant a roster spot so this mistake isn’t going to end his tenure with the Patriots, however it’s worth following as the season progresses.
The New England Patriots are facing their first team with a win this season when they travel to Buffalo to take on the division rival, surprisingly undefeated, Buffalo Bills. Will the defense, Dorsett, and Bailey aid the Patriots in their quest to remain undefeated? Will the special teams struggles, question marks at the backup quarterback position, and Michel’s sluggish start derail the strong start to the season? Sunday morning will give a better insight to how the Patriots shape up against a true playoff contender.
–Adam Myers is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @AdamTMyers